Can we train our brains to work harder?

27th May 16 | Xpose Magazine

What would our lives be like if we could access more of our unconscious mind and transform its power? XPOSÉ Magazine contributor Susan Conley is down to start brain hacking

Neil Pavitt has been there. He knows your pain. After a 25-year career as an award winning writer and creative director in advertising, he'd hit the wall. “I'd gone to work at an in-house agency at Sky. When I started out in advertising it was really exciting; it seemed to have lost that and become a bit soul destroying.” He also had ambitions to write a book, but the day job was not only getting in the way, it was thwarting him on a daily basis. “It was very frustrating, I'd come up with a load of good ideas and they'd not go through. In a way it's not as creative an outlet as you'd want it to be.”

Instead of chucking it all in and hiking up Everest in a huff, he managed to change everything and do what he really wanted to do. How did he get there? He hacked his own brain.

 

WHAT'S THAT ABOUT?

In Brainhacking: Tips and Tricks to Unleash You Brain's Full Potential, Pavitt handily summarises what we anecdotally know to be true about our grey matter: despite having one hundred billion neurons and one hundred trillion connections, we only ever use five per cent of the wrinkly stuff. The 95 per cent that is unconscious is there for the hacking, which would allow us to

solve our problems, become more productive and creative, and generally less frustrated by the day-to-day slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that cause anxiety, or just plain annoy us.

Now, unlocking our entire unconscious mind isn't the goal, nor would it be sane. Our autonomic nervous system exists for a reason, managing things like digestion, respiration and salivation. Basically, things we wouldn't want to be thinking about all the time. Like walking. “I was actually watching a programme the other night about a man who had an accident and he had to make a conscious effort to say in his mind, 'left foot, right foot,' and he said it was incredibly draining,” says Neil. “The unconscious is very good at filtering—what is important is to try to access it for creativity.”

 

HOW DID HE DO IT?

The book proffers 45 pithy, focused hacks that provide a different perspective on many of things we do daily (dare I say, unconsciously) and suggests ways to break out of the habits and create new behaviours. “One of the things that is hard to get out of is, if you do something the same way over and over again, it starts to get into a neural motorway,” Neil explains. “To start doing things in a more interesting way or come up with interesting ideas, you want to take the scenic route.

“While I was still in advertising I was taking time off to run creativity workshops and I realised this is what I really wanted to do,” he says. “I had also always wanted to write a book. I had no problem in having ideas for books, it was getting down to writing it, that was the hard part for me.” So, basically, once his unconscious desire—to leave advertising and pursue his dream of writing books and helping others unlock their creativity—became fully conscious, he was more than halfway towards making that dream a reality. Once he'd gotten beyond what he didn't want, which was taking up a shedload of space in his conscious mind, and really hooked into what had been lurking in the depths on his noggin, he was able to move forward and change his life. His creativity consultancy, Lightbulb, works with people to help them do that too.

 

Brainhacking: Tips and Tricks to Unleash Your Brain's Full Potential, €22, is available now at all good bookshops.

 

The full feature appears in the June issue of XPOSÉ Magazine, on sale now.

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